New offer gives well deserved recognition for council foster carers

Foster carers and young people who are leaving care are being given extra support and opportunities following agreement by senior councillors today.

Members of Leeds City Council’s executive board agreed new ‘corporate offers’ for foster carers and care leavers, at their meeting earlier today (Wednesday 24 April). The offers, which will begin later this year, set out a number of new discounts to help foster carers carry out their important role, details on how the council will help young people leaving care with their transition into adulthood, as well as what support is already available and what new developments are underway.

The new offers are part of the council’s on-going commitment to foster carers and care leavers and are set to be expanded as further discussions take place.

The council is the ‘corporate parent’ to 1372 ‘looked after children’ and is responsible for ensuring these children have the best possible start in life. Looked after children are the most vulnerable in society and research has shown these children have poorer outcomes than their peers.

The new corporate offer for foster carers provides carers with access to a range of support and services to help them in carrying out their important role with vulnerable children. It also provides recognition of the important contribution they make to the city.

Foster carers will be given free access to leisure and sports opportunities so that looked after children will be able to build confidence, self-esteem and skills to help their future development. The offer includes free Bodyline membership, free swims for the whole family, free swimming lessons, and free tickets for child friendly events being organised by the council. A range of shopping discounts will also be made available to foster carers, as well as MOTs by the council’s fleet services team.

The council has also changed its HR policy to be a ‘foster family friendly employer’ which includes providing better support to council staff who are foster carers including time off during the fostering process and for training.

Each year around 130 young people in Leeds leave care because they have reached 18. Many of these young people have been in care for a significant part of their lives and subsequently the council has a vital role to play to support them into adulthood. The corporate offer has been developed to ensure that care leavers are supported through this difficult transition and help them reach their potential and enjoy the same success as their peers.

The new corporate offer for care leavers includes help with obtaining training or employment, housing and setting up a home – including independent living skills, discounted or free leisure opportunities. Leeds children’s services is also working closely with partners and other council department to further develop the offer to include dedicated help with health issues, support in how to claim benefits, and making sure young care leavers have somewhere to go for any help and advice which young people would normally go to their family for.

Councillor Judith Blake, executive member responsible for children’s services said: “Children in care are often exceptionally vulnerable and need extra care and support to help them make the most of their lives. We know, as corporate parents, we can never replace parental love, but these children and young people rely on us to be there and provide not only a place to live, but also emotional support and the encouragement to succeed.

“Our foster carers provide an invaluable service, giving stable and supportive homes to children in care. Our new corporate offer demonstrates our on-going commitment to helping them achieve the best possible outcomes for the children they look after, as well as recognition that they are an integral part of our team. We hope to be able to continue to develop our offers to make fostering with Leeds City Council an even more rewarding experience.

“Last year we set ourselves the ambitious target of being truly Child Friendly City – a city which every child is proud to grow up in. And we have spent the past year setting the wheels in motion to achieve this. Our offers to foster carers and care leavers are just one way in which we are bringing council services together to make Leeds the best city for children and young people.”

The new offer for foster carers is set to come into action around September 2013.

For media enquiries, please contact:
Emma Whittell, Leeds City Council press office, on (0113) 2474713
Email: emma.whittell@leeds.gov.uk